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Biden: Next decade will be ‘decisive’ for rivalry with China

President Joe Biden Aug. 24, 2022. (White House/Released)
October 13, 2022

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

The world is at an “inflection point” as China seeks to rewrite the rules of the global order, and the next decade will prove “decisive” for the rivalry between Beijing and Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden says in a new national security strategy released by the White House on Wednesday.

The 48-page strategy, which was delayed due to the Ukraine war, outlines Biden’s national security priorities and describes China as “the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.”

“In the competition with the PRC, as in other arenas, it is clear that the next ten years will be the decisive decade,” it says, using an acronym for the People’s Republic of China. “We stand now at the inflection point, where the choices we make and the priorities we pursue today will set us on a course that determines our competitive position long into the future.”

The document’s release comes ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress this weekend, which is expected to anoint President Xi Jinping to a norm-shattering third term and cement a policy program meant to usher in “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049.

Beijing’s increasingly assertive foreign policy under Xi led earlier this year to the announcement of a “no limits” relationship with Moscow prior to its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, as well as pledges to rewrite global rules of governance.

Biden’s national security document notes that while Russia and China “are increasingly aligned with each other,” the challenges that they present to the United States are distinct, with Beijing the more important long-term focus as it moves to “layer authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy.” 

“We will prioritize maintaining an enduring competitive edge over the PRC while constraining a still profoundly dangerous Russia,” it says, noting that Beijing has clear ambitions “to become the world’s leading power.”

“At the same time, the PRC is also central to the global economy and has a significant impact on shared challenges, particularly climate change and global public health,” it says. “It is possible for the United States and the PRC to coexist peacefully and share in and contribute to human progress together.”

But the strategy document also reiterates U.S. government support for the idea of “one China” and rejects any support for Taiwanese independence. 

“We have an abiding interest in maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is critical to regional and global security,” it says, noting U.S pledges to defend Taiwan. “We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side, and do not support Taiwan independence.”

At an event to launch the strategy at Georgetown University on Wednesday, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that the strategy was not an ideological manifesto for a free world against a rising tide of authoritarianism.

Sullivan said the United States was building “the broadest possible coalition of nations to leverage our collective interests” in defending a rules-based order, whether or not all involved are democracies, or agree with U.S. policies.

“Even if our democratic partners and allies don’t agree on everything, they are aligned with us – and so are many countries that do not embrace democratic institutions, but nevertheless depend upon and help sustain a rules-based international system,” Sullivan said. “They don’t want to see it vanish.”